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Choose your 'home sweet home' by lifestyle and price
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These are the most readily available housing options on the market:

Single-Family Home (SFH): The first kind of house that comes to most people's minds: a detached home on its own plot of land. "This is the American dream, a little piece of the world that belongs to you," says Hankner.

Pros: Best choice for someone who wants freedom in how they care for their home -- and also is willing to take responsibility for maintenance. If you want to paint your house purple with a red front door, the choice is yours!

Other pluses: In most parts of the country, SFHs are reliable financial investments that appreciate steadily over time; mortgage interest is still tax-deductible; homeowner maintains full decision-making about the property; usually offer the greatest amount of privacy.

Cons: Possibly higher purchase price and maintenance expenses than other housing options, depending on home's age and condition.

Condominium: Often looks like an apartment in a shared building. You own the airspace between the condo's walls (but not the building or land) and a share in common space, such as parking and recreation areas.

Pros: Great for owners who want to do minimal maintenance or who travel a lot. The condo association often provides landscaping and exterior building maintenance. Security can be better, since neighbors are close. Can be less expensive than a SFH, though some new luxury condos are quite pricey. May offer amenities such as a clubhouse and covered parking.

Also, condos in urban centers may be within walking distance of upscale retail shops and restaurants.

Cons: Usually smaller than a SFH; less privacy and more noise, since you may have upstairs and downstairs neighbors; resale prices may not be as strong as for a SFH.

Townhouse or Row house: Similar to a condo, except that units may not be connected. Often consists of several levels and a private garage.

Pros: Same as condos, but with less noise since you probably won't have anyone living above or below you; increasingly available in urban areas.

Cons: Possibly more expensive than a condo; owner may have responsibility for landscaping -- a "pro" if you have a green thumb!

Still not sure? Bankrate has lots of information for first-time home buyers.

Teri Cettina is a freelance writer based in Oregon.'s corrections policy -- Updated: June 9, 2006
More stories by Teri Cettina
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